Antigenic variants of measles virus

Article metrics


Since its first isolation in 1954, measles has been considered to be an antigenically stable virus1,2, a view supported by numerous epidemiological studies demonstrating that a single exposure to measles confers life-long immunity on the infected host3. The basis for protection against recurrent infection is thought to be the production of polyclonal neutralizing antibodies that recognize a virus existing in only one, invariant antigenic form. Indeed, comparison of several independent isolates of measles virus for biological parameters such as cytopathic effect (CPE), host range and haemagglutination has supported the view that variation in measles virus is uncommon4,5. However, there has been no evaluation of variation at the molecular level by rigorous biochemical analysis of measles virus strains and of their structural proteins. We report here the isolation and characterization of spontaneously arising antigenic variants of measles by immunoselection, using neutralizing monoclonal antibodies directed against antigenic determinants of the Edmonston measles haemagglutinin protein. One of these variants has been shown to be antigenically similar to a low-passage ‘street’ virus isolate of measles, which suggests possible antigenic variation outside the laboratory.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Ginsberg, H. in Virology, 1149–1154 (Harper & Row, Maryland, 1980).

  2. 2

    Kilbourne, E. D. in Textbook of Medicine (eds Beeson, P. B., McDermott, W. & Wyngaarden, J. B.) 246–250 (W. B. Saunders, Pennsylvania, 1979).

  3. 3

    Panum, P. L. Virchows Arch. path. Anat. Physiol. 1, 492–512 (1847).

  4. 4

    McCarthy, K., Br. med. Bull. 15, 201–204 (1959).

  5. 5

    Fraser, K. B. & Martin, S. J. in Measles Virus and its Biology (eds Tinsley, T. W. & Brown, F.) 25–40 (Academic, London, 1978).

  6. 6

    Graves, M. C., Silver, S. M. & Choppin, P. W. Virology 86, 254–263 (1977).

  7. 7

    Birrer, M., Bloom, B. R. & Udem, S. Virology 108, 381–390 (1981).

  8. 8

    Rowlands, D. et al. Cell 19, 871–880 (1980).

  9. 9

    Laver, W. G., Gerhard, W., Webster, R. B., Frankel, M. E. & Air, G. M. Proc. natn. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 76, 1425–1429 (1979).

  10. 10

    Wiktor, T. J. & Koprowski, H. J. exp. Med. 152, 99–112 (1980).

  11. 11

    Fisher, L. E. & Rapp, F. J. Virol. 30, 64–68 (1979).

  12. 12

    Hall, W. W., Lamb, R. A. & Choppin, P. W. Proc. natn. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 76, 2047–2051 (1979).

  13. 13

    Horta-Barbosa, L., Fuccillo, D. A., Lonclon, W. T., Jabbove, J. T. J. & Sever, J. L. Proc. Soc. exp. Biol. Med. 132, 272–277 (1969).

  14. 14

    Payne, F. E., Baublis, J. V. & Itabashi, H. H. N. Engl. J. Med. 281, 585–590 (1969).

  15. 15

    Brown, J. L., Kato, K., Silver, J. & Nathenson, S. G. Biochemistry 13, 3174 (1974).

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.